June 6

We Are Not Archaeological Digs

June 6, 2016

Personal Growth

Recently a mother asked me for my opinion about the therapy her adult daughter was receiving for the pain and harmful behaviors that had followed a long history of sexual and emotional trauma. I asked how long the daughter had been in therapy, and the mother said, “Oh, about five or six years.”

“And how does she seem to be doing?” I asked. “Does she live on her own?”

“No, she lives with me.”

“Does she work?”

“No.”

“Is she going to school?”

“No.”

“How does she occupy her time?”

“She pretty much reads books and watches television at home all day.”

“So it doesn’t sound as though the therapy is working all that well.”

“No, I suppose it doesn’t.”

Although I have seen positive results come from therapists who are naturally gifted in loving, on the whole, I compare traditional psychological therapy or counseling to an archaeological dig, where the therapists dig through the dirt, occasionally finding bones and pottery shards, but unable to bring life to anything.

A week later, the mother called me and said, “I just attended one of my daughter’s therapy sessions for the first time, and it went exactly as you described. I watched the therapist sift through the dirt of my daughter’s past, excited to find bones and artifacts like a mad scientist. But the counselor was treating my daughter like a lab experiment. There was no hope, no life, nothing positive.”

Sometimes a certain degree of understanding is needed in talking with people about their pain, past, and present. It contributes to the other person feeling connected to the interviewer. On the whole, though, what people really need is healing, which comes only from feeling loved. And on the whole, therapists have no love to offer. They never received any themselves, and in their training—almost without exception—they were never taught how to use it.

We are human beings, who need understanding and healing, not archaeological digs to be shoveled and sifted.

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